We have worked with thousands of companies over the past two decades, and it’s been quite a journey watching technology impact and transform their business operations. From those classic email days to the super-savvy ERP systems, tech has really shaken things up! But here’s the interesting part: every company and its use – and potential use – of technology is different.
I recall a plumbing company that we were working with several years ago. They were a top producer in their market segment, serving companies throughout their State. However, when we evaluated the company, we discovered an anomaly. They had separate technologies for their sales and accounting systems, but neither technology communicated with each other. This meant that any info that went into the CRM had to be retyped into the accounting system as needed. Further, their tech team would write down job notes on pieces of paper, which had to be painstakingly filed with the customer record. So, every time they went to a customer location, they either had to go in blind, call the office for history, or manually look up the customer history themselves.
Doesn’t sound very efficient, does it? Now let’s break down the cost of these administrative tasks on a usual workday:
So, in total, you’re looking at 3.75 hours (lookup) + 3.75 hours (logging) + 1.25 hours (invoicing) = 8.75 hours of administrative work per day for 5 techs.
If the administrative staff is earning $30 per hour, the cost would be 8.75 hours x $30 per hour = $262.50 per day.
Let’s imagine the same firm where they have the CRM, accounting and a service management solution all combined. They would benefit from having:
But wait – there’s more!
That, we can say, is an efficient utilization of the available technical stack.
We see the same story across industries, whether talking about manufacturing, consultancies, marketing agencies, retail outlets, schools, and government entities, Not for Profits, etc.
In this day and age, it is kind of a no-brainer that most companies will embrace some type of technology to make their companies run better or more efficiently. The challenge often lies in HOW they are embracing technology.
In my conversation with Jeff Swartz, we discussed Operations Software and some of the ways he selects the right software for his company. One thing he emphasized was, “Software is a significant investment. Therefore, you don’t buy software for where your company currently is, but rather, where your company is going.”
Given the time, resources, and investment it takes to maximize the ROI on a new software purchase, companies do need to plan for the future. They need to look at the 3-to-5-year horizon and understand where they expect the company to be in that timeframe (Not just a wild guess, but a well-thought-out plan to get there!).
One area we often notice companies struggling with is their processes. Take something as simple as the sales process, for instance.
For example, when purchasing a CRM system, if your sales team doesn’t have a consistent sales process that you require them to use, much of the value of the CRM system will remain untapped. Uniformity in processes allows you to evaluate the same to see what is and isn’t working. It also enables you to create sales projections, evaluate reports to determine productivity, and performance and track communications and activities around accounts, contacts and deals/opportunities.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that you don’t typically want your software to dictate your company’s processes. It will slow the adoption rate (how quickly people start using the software) and may spark resistance in some team members.
Based on an understanding of the company’s future goals, there is a need to determine what the company’s requirements will be. The interesting thing at this stage is that there will be three categories of features – “Must-have”, “Nice to have” and “Wow! That would be pretty cool.”
While the “Nice to have” and the “Wow! That would be pretty cool.”, are the shiny things, if the “Must-have” doesn’t meet your requirements, the software is not going to meet your needs. This does include things like usability, tech support and integration with other solutions you are currently using.
With the introduction of .ai and other automation tools, the temptation is great to automate as much as possible. While automation has its place depending on your target market, your product position and your goals, you may end up making greater sacrifices than you realize when you automate. I have literally walked away from providers who wanted me to essentially self-serve because they had a process that they’d thought through and felt that a one-size-fits-all would meet my requirements. I come from a service background and hence high-touch and relationships are nearly as important as the end result.
With the number of software options on the market, it could be easy to fall into analysis-paralysis. What further complicates the issue is that new solutions are being introduced to the market on a regular basis. If you go to places like https://appsumo, you can see just how many solutions are being promoted on that platform. Following up that with other places like https://capterra.com and https://G2com, where you can see user reviews and get software recommendations, you could end up with a dozen or so solutions, many of which could be viable.
Following the guidelines mentioned in the earlier part of this article will help the process and narrow down your selection. The smart move may be to use your team to help both identify and finalize the solution. Making them part of the process will likely increase the adoption rate and decrease the headache for you, both in selection and being able to implement the same.
One final topic that was broached in my conversation with Jeff was the return on investment one should seek with their software investment. If you recall from the opening example, it was rather easy to see the expenditures that were associated with the company’s original processes. Estimating the time saved and the costs saved by being more efficient (and making fewer mistakes!) along with the software cost should help you figure out your ROI.
But here’s the catch: if you invest in software that is too expensive, your ROI might end up in the red.
Another whole conversation could be – and probably should be – dedicated to the actual customization, implementation, and change management processes that are inherent in software projects like this. I would not suggest to you that it is a quick or an easy process. But no part of running a successful – nonetheless extraordinary company ever is. I can assure you, however, that done well, like many of your other endeavors, the benefits will far outweigh the effort that you have to put into it.
If you are interested in learning more about implementing or optimizing your company’s operations technology – or tech stack – let’s schedule some time to discuss your challenges and your needs over a no-obligation Coffee & a Consult. For nearly 20 years, we have worked with companies to help them streamline their business operations and establish a solid foundation to support business growth. Learn more at https://aepiphanni.com.